Books by Kalamu ya
The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts
A Revolution of Black Poets
Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology
From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets
Our Music Is No Accident /
What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self
My Story My Song (CD)
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below smiling student
faces are tears & fears
kalamu visits home
Part 1 of 3
new orleans, 11 nov 2005 – back home again in new
orleans. ashley lives in waggaman, about 20 miles outside the
city, up river, out pass avondale shipyards, not too far from
bridge city, louisiana. i drop her home and then take the west
bank expressway (i.e. old highway 90 east) back into the city,
passing thru algiers and then on to the crescent city
connection, the bridge that crosses the mississippi river that
divides the city into west bank and east bank.
the west bank is algiers, i believe the population is only about
40,000 out of the nearly half a million new orleans citizens.
however, land wise, the west bank comprises maybe 40% of the
land area, it’s just that most of it is undeveloped wooded
area and marsh lands.
i’m going to check my mail first and then head out to the new
orleans east to check on a storage unit where books and
equipment were stored. i’m pretty much resigned that the
storage unit was probably flooded although i have been getting
letters asking for payment of back rent and threatening a lien
as i come down off the expressway on the way to the post office,
i decide to stop at a storage unit i was renting near the post
office. when i closed down my office back in april, i rented a
larger unit at the baronne facility but even the larger unit was
not enough space, which is when i rented a small space in the
east at u-haul, which was the company where i rented the truck
to do move the office equipment, books and cds. all of that was
a far bigger deal than just talking about it. i had over five
thousand cds. over 4800 of the cds were alphabetized in steel
cases, the rest were in boxes. i had a library of well over
3,000 books, pamphlets and historic papers, plus computer and
video equipment, and boxes of paraphernalia and memorabilia
collected over the years.
the storage unit on baronne street is on the third floor of an
old, sturdily built brick building. everything looked copastetic
from the outside as i pulled up. inside at the desk was the same
elderly white woman who was both pleasant and consciencious
about doing her job and helping the customers. i paid my bill
through the end of the year and then moved on to the post
the main post office building was closed but there were signs
that pointed to the rear area for mail pick-up. turns out the
service was only available until 3pm. i would have to check mail
later. next stop the storage unit in the east.
at this point i have not seen much damage but i know i have not
yet gotten to any of the flooded areas. however, once i swing
past the superdome and get on i-10 headed to the east, it’s
immediately obvious that the situation goes from bad to worse to
disaster rather quickly.
the first thing i notice is trash on the expressway. a couple of
abandoned cars. then the blue roofs as i past the treme area.
treme is the oldest continuously existing black community in the
united states. much of it was built by free people of color and
i keep going, figuring i will have plenty enough time later on
to check treme out. by the time i’m in the ninth ward it’s
obvious that the situation is dire. i drop down at the downman
exit, the first off-ramp after crossing the high rise, which is
the tallest structure in new orleans and crosses the industrial
canal, the boundary line that marks the beginning of new orleans
about five blocks from downman is where the storage unit is
located. as i pull up i realize that i should have said where
the storage unit “used to be” located. the u-haul office is
abandoned. empty. deserted. i don’t even bother turning in to
people ask about the books and stuff and i simply say, i don’t
even think about it. it’s gone. let’s move on.
i ride out gentilly for about two miles or so to crowder.
gentilly is a major thoroughfare, actually a highway. on the
south side to my right, the damage is heavy but not overbearing
from what i can see as i drive through at about thirty miles an
hour. on my left it’s beginning to look ugly. i turn left at
crowder, one of the four or five major cross streets that run
from the lake to the almonaster thoroughfare, which is an
industrial road about a half mile south of gentilly highway.
my intention was to meander around on a basic recognizance of
the area and eventually, maybe, to pass by my brother’s house
out by bullard that i knew had been flooded. i have not gone
half a block on crowder before i realize i’m not in new
orleans east anymore, i’m in east hell, or to more correctly
use the metaphor, east atlantis, except it’s dry and dismal,
i don’t feel like describing what i saw except to say, i quit
driving thru the east before i got to my brother’s house. i
was beginning to cry and become totally depressed. we were here
for a homecoming celebration, bringing some of our students in
and trying to pull together whatever we could. i needed to be
someone the young folk could lean on.
i’m a big, black, bear of a man, so the thought of me crying
might seem a little unusual (i know some folk are going to
insist there’s nothing wrong with a man crying. well, i
didn’t say something was wrong, i said “unusual.” people
don’t usually drive down a street crying because of what they
are seeing around them.) this was the moment when i realized how
much i love new orleans.
this was my dry well moment. she gone. i felt myself breaking
down like an old blues singer moaning about that young woman he
loved. it felt awful to see her like this, wasted, broke down
worse than a crack addict, laying out somewhere, showing her
emaciated ass. enough. i had to get up out there.
i had a home in algiers to go to. i was driving through an area
where people literally had nothing but shells of houses, if
that, to return to. in algiers the electricity was on, the gas
and water were working. we had phone service and cable service.
i had a dsl line up and running. i could take hot showers and
sleep in comfort. even though my brother-in-law and his family
were in the house, our house was large enough that we all still
had our privacy. i could see clean through many of these houses,
and these were not small cottages. i’m talking about
two-story, well built houses, and brick ranch type structures,
some of them split level, and townhouses, and all of them in
total ruination. it was too much for me, i got back on the
expressway and carried my ass home.
welcome back, black. look what they’ve done to your home. who
you mean? katrina is not a “they.” katrina was a natural
disaster. maybe, but let me tell you that natural disaster was
made worse by the politicians and the army corps of engineers
who were supposed to be in charge of the levees. everything was
made worse by policy experts and urban planners who did not
really give a damn.
if you stay out in the east, your mood turns foul. it wasn’t
nothing nice. neither the scene nor my anger. nothing nice.
friday night, back on the west bank i got the wireless hooked
back up and was generally in internet heaven but i remained
haunted by all the destruction i had just seen. i slept well but
when i woke i started worrying about the future of our city.
we had a 9am program planned. we would start with a memorial
service at st. augustine church in treme. and from there
secondline to st.paul’s lutheran church in the bywater area
midway between the french quarter and frederick douglass high
school in the ninth ward, which is where students at the center
i checked with ashley. she said she had a surprise for me and
would meet me at the church, but she wouldn’t tell me what the
surprise was. i had been assigned the task of conducting the
service. when i arrived about a minute before 9am, a few of the
brass band members were starting to arrive and greta was
waiting. we trickled inside the church. folk were generally
moving on new orleans time, which means we start around 9:15 and
by 9:30 most of the folk will have arrived.
baba is drumming inside the church. it’s warm. the warmest
catholic church i know. i’m talking about the emotional
warmth. i’m talking about how you feel welcomed. how you
don’t feel like you are disturbing anything if you drum or
sing or even dance inside this church. how the seven principles
are on the upper walls along with the religious symbols. how the
pulpit is in the center of the church and how this church is a
community center as well as a religious gathering spot. it’s
new orleans warm. you just feel like you can do what you wanna
up inside of here.
we take turns expressing our grief and memories for those who
are departed, for those who did not survive katrina, for the
tremendous destruction that has been wrought on our city. and as
the program progresses more and more people arrive. the crew
from baton rouge that includes rodneka, one of our star students
who is a senior this year, and rodneka’s younger sister,
robin, and robin’s boy friend, dominique, and the hernandezes,
and others including freddy house, one of my favorite douglass
students and the backbone of our chess club.
our program opened with stephen gladney, greta’s son, playing
an alto saxophone solo. he carried his horn with him everywhere.
when they were waiting atop the old american can building to be
rescued he had his horn with him. when they were evacuated by
boat and bus, he kept his horn. when they moved to clemson,
south carolina and now that they were back in new orleans. my
man had his horn.
when ashley arrived, i saw the surprise. it was earlneka, a
young sophomore whom we had been working with for the first time
last year but with whom i had immediately struck up an affinity
as we were both from the lower ninth ward. we had worked the
summer on digital stories and she was one of the most gifted and
most committed to developing her story and learning the computer
techniques necessary to make a first-class digital story.
at the conclusion of the service, which was essentially a time
of serious sharing, we poured out into the cool but pleasant
fall morning and prepared to secondline. greta had hired a
pick-up band formed around a core of young tuxedo brass band
members. there was their leader, trumpeter greg stafford who is
one of the most jovial musicians i know. and on bass drum was
shannon powell, one of the most dynamic drummers in the city.
and louis torregano on clarinet and others whom i know from
seeing but whose names i either can’t remember or don’t
ashley is out front shooting video. i bring up the rear in the
van. the band takes the long way around, stopping at shannon’s
house. people seep out of the houses. a few people are actually
crying with joy.
a secondline is a celebration. post-katrina there has not been
much celebrating going on. but as the music hits. doors open and
people join us. some stay on the sidewalk and wave as we pass.
but others joyfully join in.
one woman in particular, i will never forget. she was the second
person coming out of their house. someone who may have been her
sister came out first and stood on the stoop, but zooming right
behind her was this middle-aged sister with a purple umbrella.
naw, it wasn’t raining. umbrellas are part of the secondline
and my lady was ready. she juked--she didn’t walk or run, she
juked, it was a combination of dancing and running to catch up.
once she did get to where the band was, this woman gave a clinic
on rump shaking. it just made you feel all kinds of good. when
we got down to colton middle school, the band went into a dirge
and that slow two-step they do to express grief. by then all
kinds of people had joined in, and the thirty or so of us that
had started off were now doubled in size.
i personally was bumping in the driver’s seat of the van. and
smiling. and feeling like, yeah, we can handle this. it’s
going to be alright.
and then we got to st. paul’s and in the church yard it got
gooder, by which i mean two young black women took turns dancing
with the grand marshal of the secondline. now being a grand
marshal is no job for apprentices. you got to be able to
carrying on in fine style. my man looked to be in his sixties
dancing like he was still 32, plus you know he had a store house
of moves from his years of dancing in the streets. well, the
young ladies didn’t give a good goddamn how much experience he
had or how well he could twirl that umbrella, pop his pelvis,
buck his eyes, butterfly his thighs, fan his butt with his hat,
back back and drop down, didn’t none of that faze them in the
least cause they was buck jumping black women and they had
something for him. aug, let me tell you, it was wonderful.
my brother kenneth, who is an entrepreneur and owns a café©
that we and many other people use as a field office, kenneth is
grinning his resplendent grin and playing the trumpet at the
same time. he always wanted to be a musician and never put his
horn down. now he plays more than ever. everybody was feeling
good and then we broke for lunch, which was served in the church
by now, i am becoming emotional. homesick. critically ill.
somebody come see about me. i’m walking around laughing and
joking with the students, with fellow sac staff, with the band
members whom i know, with friends who have joined us, with
people who just stopped by. dorese blackman, who used to teach
at douglass is there on her motorbike. we’re standing maybe
six inches apart and hollering at each other like we were
standing on opposite ends of the block. and just laughing and
grinning. and the sun is shinning. and we are in new orleans.
and we are new orleans. new orleans.
end of part 1 of 3
* * *
kalamu visits home - part 2 of 3
earlneka – wait a minute before i tell you about taking
earlneka to work, let me tell you a little something about
naming conventions. rodneka and earlneka, we call them the nekas,
except when we mean rodneka, we say neka marie, on account of
her middle name, but anyway, on the one hand, yeah, these names
are made up, but the making up process is not frivolous. in the
case of the nekas, they are both named after their fathers,
rodney and earl, you got it?
while it is true that not all of the “made-up” names have a
specific origin or reason behind them, it is equally true that
these names represent a stubborn persistent on the part of black
folk (and mostly either poor black folk or politically conscious
black folk) to celebrate their blackness, howsoever they may be
defining that blackness. and, an interesting corollary is that
professional blacks often assert their blackness by actively
avoiding labels that scream ethnicity while at the same time
being leading members of black professional organizations and
black caucuses of majority white organizations. so anyway, back
the day before ashley had run up on earlneka when ashley stopped
at a macdonald’s near her home on highway 90. earlneka was
working there. they recognized each other and ashley told
earlneka about the homecoming activities, offered to give
earlneka a ride, which earlneka accepted conditional on being
able to get a ride back to work. i ended up being the one to
drive earlneka to macdonald’s. no problem. i was glad to do
it, even though taking the trip meant that i would miss the
beginning of the story circle and meeting at douglass that was
the last part of our homecoming program. immediately after lunch
we were to journey a couple of miles over to douglass, which was
walking distance for a leisurely stroll on a beautiful november
earlneka had evacuated new orleans, i don’t remember to which
town, but it was not too far away from new orleans. subsequently
they had returned to live on the outskirts of new orleans in
avondale, 20 miles or so away on the west bank but further out
from the river than waggaman. as we pulled out the st. paul’s
church yard, earlneka wondered if we had time to pass her house,
which she hadn’t seen since the flood.
of course, we had time. it would be cutting it close but not
impossibly close. so we zoomed down toward lower nine. earlneka
lived on bartholomew street and on the lake side of st. claude,
only five or six blocks away from douglass. as far as the flood
goes, st. claude was a major dividing line, just as was
claiborne avenue. st. claude is about ten blocks from the river.
next to the river is high ground and the drop off is rapid.
between st.claude and the river, flood water ran from two deep
to completely dry. but on the lake side of st. claude going
toward claiborne the water level rose quickly. it looked like
about three feet at st. claude to about six feet in depth at
claiborne. earlneka stayed in the second block on the lake side
of st. claude, not a good place as far as flood waters were
concerned but, at the same time, not a completely bad place
oh, one other thing. there are a lot of alternating, one way
streets in new orleans, which is not unusual except that in new
orleans, the directions of a given street can change as you move
from one neighborhood to another, or when you get to or cross a
major thoroughfare. a lot of time you have to take the long way
around to get to a place that might be a couple of blocks away,
which was the case with earlneka’s house.
"it’s that one up there on the left, second from the
corner." it was the one with the neighbor’s roof resting
partially on earlneka’s mother’s car, and partially blocking
the rest of the driveway. i looked at earlneka. she looked past
me at her house and then quickly opened the passenger side door,
slipped out of the van and darted through her front gate towards
the front door.
it was an awkward moment for me. this was her first time back.
she was the first one in her family to re-visit the homestead.
it’s an intimate moment. although i had some real concerns
about her safety, i also wanted to be sensitive to whatever
might be her emotional response. earlneka is probably 14 or 15
years old, but she from ctc, and whatever drops, i know she can
handle it. after all she wears earrings with the photo of a
friend who has been murdered dangling on teardropped-shapped
plastic pieces the size of a fifty cent coin. she’s a trooper.
so i sit in the van. when earlneka got to her front door, she
didn’t even much hesitate at all. she pushed that bad boy open
and stepped inside. i looked all around me while she was inside.
if the outside was this grim, i knew inside had to be nothing
nice—i keep repeating that new orleans phrase because it is so
apt a description of the city at this moment.
about ten minutes later, earlneka comes bounding out with a pink
teddy bear backpack/purse and one or two pieces of clothing. she
said that was about all that was worth getting. before katrina
hit, she had put them up on a top shelf in a closet. i asked her
how high the water had been. she put her hand just below her
as we drove away, she pulled out her cell phone and started
calling family members to report on the extent of the
destruction. i couldn’t say nothing that would make any sense,
so i said nothing for a few blocks.
after we crossed the tracks, we began to talk about new orleans,
about how fucked up shit was. there ain’t no other way to
describe it. it’s fucked up.
about forty-five minutes later, after dropping earlneka over to
macdonald’s where only the drive up was open, when we had hit
the expressway, we started talking about her job, how school was
going out in avondale, how she liked living on the west bank. i
wasn’t just making small talk, i was really concerned about
her. she was dealing with it. her spirits were high.
nevertheless, i knew it had to be hard.
i made it back into town and then downtown to douglass high
school to catch the last of the homecoming meeting at which we
talked about where to go from here, what moves to make, what
kind of response to mount to the ongoing abandonment. no public
schools. no public hospitals. no electricity in over 60% of the
city. no this. no that. no. no. no.
we decided to focus on making the school we opened a community
school and planned to see if there was someway we could get into
douglass. we were sitting in the back yard, next to the
auditorium. someone had climbed through a window and opened a
door, so we had access to a bathroom.
the school was in relatively good shape. there had been minimal
flooding in only the band room which was about three feet below
street level, built to approximate an indoor amphitheater
effect. no other room had flooded at the school. additionally,
the oregon national guard had been stationed there, so the whole
building had been cleaned up.
built in 1938, the solid brick, three story structure had served
as an emergency shelter for the surrounding neighborhood, and
after the flood, as an operational base for the national guard.
we discussed what we thought might be the best way to get access
to the school facility, especially given the upheaval with the
school system, nothing can be taken for granted. approximately
20 schools had been turned to charter schools. those were the
buildings that were either on the west bank and had received no
flood water or were two or three uptown eastbank buildings. no
public schools were open and the state was rumored to be poised
to take over most of the remaining 100-or-so schools.
we had a lot of discussion about charters and decided that we
didn’t want to go the charter route, even though we recognized
that we might be forced to do so. sitting in a big circle
listening to each other, high school students, teachers, staff,
community activists, civil rights veterans, everyone taking a
turn speaking their hearts and minds, responding to the issues
and then a completely unforeseen issue came up, an issue that
defines how we work and demonstrates the collective wisdom. we
had about 25 students present and a number of them had been in
the band. some of them wanted to take their instruments home.
the instruments were sitting there inside the band room, unused,
dirty from the flood but, in the case of many of them not
damaged beyond repair. the flute and trumpet players were
especially vocal about wanting to salvage their instruments.
somebody suggested taking a vote. but jim and i, the
co-directors of students at the center, insisted that we discuss
the issue and try to reach consensus rather than just take a
winner take all vote. i explained how majority rule inevitably
produces splits. as much as possible, i was strongly in favor of
everyone speaking on the issue and everyone listening to each
other, and from that process coming to consensus. jim offered
that by listening to each other and considering everyone’s
point of view we generally come to better decisions rather than
forcing the issue one way or the other.
earlier we had been talking about possibly sitting-in at the
school and being prepared, if necessary, to be arrested.
That’s not a position to take lightly, especially when legal
minors are involved and most especially when family and other
supporters are living hundreds of miles away. both jim and i
were keenly aware that we had guardian responsibilities vis-Ã -vis
these young people. we knew that part of the reason that at
least two thirds of the students were present is because their
parents trusted us and were confident that we were caring for
their children. students came from south carolina, georgia,
texas, oklahoma and areas surrounding new orleans.
katrina has set off all kinds of discussions and activities in
response. some people see the possibility for organizing
revolutionary activities based on the pain and anger felt by
many, many new orleanians and indeed by people all across this
nation. while there is certainly an opportunity to harness all
this energy, that does not mean ignoring our responsibilities to
care for one another, and especially for adults to care for
young people. i stand firm on that issue.
so there we sat, in a giant circle, asking each person to speak
their hearts and minds on the issue of whether the students
should take the instruments. half way around the circle the
general consensus seemed to be that the instruments would
probably be trashed if left in the building and that if they
were salvageable then maybe the students should take them even
though technically it would be theft. and then someone brought
up the health issue, who knew what was on and in those
instruments as toxic residue from the flood waters. by the time
we finished the circle, we all agreed that it might be better to
leave the instruments than to take them.
the conclusion itself was not as important as the process. no
one felt oppressed or put down for their view. everyone had a
turn, whether they were a fifteen-year-old student or
fifty-something visitor who was there to support organizing in
new orleans. it was a beautiful moment because when we left not
only were we all in agreement but more importantly, we all felt
validated in the sense that our opinions were heard and
considered, and that we each had full input into the decision
this was not going to be an easy row to hoe. there were tree
stumps and big rocks in our path, plus all kinds of legalities
crisscrossing our path. nevertheless, the energy and optimism of
the youth was infectious. when we left the school, a number of
us went over to washington square in the next block from café
rose nicaud. a loose aggregation of alternative street folk and
anarchist organizations had set up a food and relief station in
the park and were serving free diners. we sat there talking and
walking the half hour or so for the 5:30 meal time. they were
serving red beans and rice with catfish. even though the food
was not the greatest, it was a great and enjoyable meal. and the
young folk ran around the park, playing games, hooting and
hollering at each other and generally being young people.
how beautiful it was to see them enjoying each other, especially
since they were now living literally hundreds of miles apart.
sometimes we adults who can be fulfilled by productive meetings
and having a drink or a cocktail afterwards, forget that young
teenagers like to play and forgetting that, we also forget to
build play time into our schedules. as the dark descended, what
we heard was youthful laughter--the sound of young people at
play, one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.
the park was closing down at 8pm, so around 7:30pm we started
gathering folk up and working out the car pooling and the
housing assignments. adrinda kelly, who joined us and who works
as an editor at mcgraw hill publishing in new york city, and who
was one of the first sac graduates, and who also was the first
person we interviewed for our listen to the people project,
adrinda was waiting for her mother but there was some
miscommunication so i volunteered to take adrinda to elysian
fields and i-10 to wait for her mother who was coming from the
east. their house sat on an embankment and they were fortunate
not to suffer flood damage, although they had wind damage, and
of course there was no electricity but they were going to spend
the night in their house.
shortly after we parked on elysian fields by the expressway, a
car's lights cut through the darkness, it was adrinda's mother,
linda, pulling up. i watched them as they pulled up the ramp
heading out to the east, shook my head, and headed back over to
the west bank.
end of part 2 of 3
kalamu visits home - part 3 of 3
meanwhile, out in california, my daughter asante was dealing
with a scheduling snafu. ashley and i were scheduled to fly into
syracuse, new york on monday, but the syracuse gig had suddenly
been postponed. we had, of course, already purchased a ticket
for ashley and the airlines charge you a minimum of $75 to
change a reservation. it also had meant that the travel for the
gig after syracuse, which was miami for the miami book fair had
to be changed, and that was another cost to bear. there is
nothing simple about touring. if you don't have a good
administrator, don't try it unless you're up for all kinds of
high drama and hidden expenses kicking your butt. plus, we had
the van rental, which we were supposed to turn in on monday
morning when we flew out to syracuse. it was a mess.
travel plans were messed up. new orleans was messed up. and
little did i know there was still more drama to come. the next
day, the baton rouge contingent was catching a ride with the
contingent headed to tulsa, oklahoma who were also going to take
one of the folk who was living out somewhere near dallas, but,
long story short: the ride situation got all messed up. rodneka
who was supposed to be back in baton rouge on sunday morning
didn't arrive until after 8pm. she missed work. her mother was
upset. damien who was near dallas ended up--well, let's just say
it wasn't nothing nice--again!
and so, both jim and i were out of the loop initially and didn't
find out about all the snafus until late sunday afternoon. so we
were calling around accepting responsibility for the mess ups
and doing our best to smooth ruffled feathers via telephone. the
following week we went up to baton rouge to visit rodneka's
mother and assure her that it wouldn't happen again.
but that's the way it goes. it's all in the game. you want to
make change, you've got to pay heavy dues.
once i got my revised itinerary from asante, i had two more days
in new orleans. and that extra time enabled me to do a three
hour interview with my brother who had survived hurricane betsy
when the house we grew up in was flooded up to the rafters and
who left town for katrina but was among the first to return
back, and was the first business in his immediate area to
kenneth is a through-and-through new orleans trooper, but even
he was having his up and down days. originally we were going to
do the interview on sunday, but when i arrived at his house, the
awful news continued: the electricity had gone out.
kenneth and his wife melba live in a dry area, six blocks from
the river. if entergy, the utility company, couldn't keep
electricity on in a dry area, you know what was happening in the
areas that had flooded.
exhibiting the macabre sense of humor common to disaster zones,
kenneth and i sat in the twilight solving the far away problems
of the world, which was far easier than dealing with the
immediate problems of new orleans. it's like that in new orleans
right now. you take it from minute to minute because you don't
have no way to know what the conditions are going to be. but you
know we couldn't resist taking a crack at figuring out how to
get new orleans up and running again. although, we thought we
figured out iraq, new orleans was a much toughter nut to crack.
monday afternoon i interviewed kenneth. we did three hours of
the remaining day and a half, i poked around new orleans a bit
more and prepared for the next leg of touring: miami, and two
hits in washington, dc.
new orleans is bi-polar. one minute it's hip and the next minute
it's hell. it's difficult to deal with the mood swings, with the
turmoil, with everything fine one second and the next--one night
i took a different route to get to the expressway. right before
i got to the expressway, the lights ran out. behind me was a
lighted city. in front of me was nothing. darkness as far as i
i don't know if you hear me. i was at the stop sign--since the
lights weren't working, the city had put up portable stop signs
("portable stop signs" that shit don't even sound
logical, but there it was). i was sitting there at the portable
stop sign. i turned around and looked behind me. lights. i
looked in front of me. nothing. just utter darkness. and, dig
it, i wasn't in the east. i wasn't in lower nine. i was only
about fifteen blocks from the river. utter nothingness.
it felt like if i drove forward i was going to be driving into a
void. i half expected to see rod sterling standing on the corner
with a hand-lettered placard: you are now entering the twilight
zone. except, there was no light. he could have been standing
there. i would barely have noticed him. and it was certainly too
dark to read the welcome sign. or was it a warning?
i still have not decided whether i was going to return to new
orleans. indeed, i was still looking for a new orleans to return
that was my first time visiting home since katrina. "visiting
home" you know how fucked up that sounds?!!
end of part 3 of 3
posted 9 December 2005
* * *
* * *
Hopes and Prospects
By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky
surveys the dangers and prospects of our
early twenty-first century. Exploring
challenges such as the growing gap
between North and South, American
exceptionalism (including under
President Barack Obama), the fiascos of
Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli
assault on Gaza, and the recent
financial bailouts, he also sees hope
for the future and a way to move
forward—in the democratic wave in Latin
America and in the global solidarity
movements that suggest "real progress
toward freedom and justice." Hopes and
Prospects is essential reading for
anyone who is concerned about the
primary challenges still facing the
human race. "This is a classic Chomsky
work: a bonfire of myths and lies,
sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky
is an enduring inspiration all over the
world—to millions, I suspect—for the
simple reason that he is a truth-teller
on an epic scale. I salute him." —John
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America.
This collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to
promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of
Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * * * *
So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America
By Peter Edelman
If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.
The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage
growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse
results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood.—
* * * * *
It's The Middle Class Stupid!
By James Carville
and Stan Greenberg
It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!
confirms what we have all suspected:
Washington and Wall Street have really
screwed things up for the average
American. Work has been devalued.
Education costs are out of sight. Effort
and ambition have never been so scantily
rewarded. Political guru James Carville
and pollster extraordinaire Stan
Greenberg argue that our political
parties must admit their failures and
the electorate must reclaim its voice,
because taking on the wealthy and the
privileged is not class warfare—it is a
matter of survival. Told in the
alternating voices of these two top
It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!
provides eye-opening and provocative
arguments on where our
government—including the White House—has
gone wrong, and what voters can do about
Controversial and outspoken,
authoritative and shrewd,
It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!
is destined to make waves during the
2012 presidential campaign, and will set
the agenda for legislative battles and
political dust-ups during the next
* * * * *
Aké: The Years of Childhood
By Wole Soyinka
Aké: The Years of Childhood is a
memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and
lyrical account of one boy's attempt to
grasp the often irrational and
hypocritical world of adults that
equally repels and seduces him. Soyinka
elevates brief anecdotes into history
lessons, conversations into morality
plays, memories into awakenings. Various
cultures, religions, and languages
mingled freely in the Aké of his youth,
fostering endless contradictions and
personalized hybrids, particularly when
it comes to religion. Christian
teachings, the wisdom of the ogboni, or
ruling elders, and the power of
alternately terrify and inspire him
carried equal metaphysical weight.
Surrounded by such a collage, he notes
that "God had a habit of either not
answering one's prayers at all, or
answering them in a way that was not
In writing from a child's perspective,
Soyinka expresses youthful idealism and
unfiltered honesty while escaping the
adult snares of cynicism and
intolerance. His stinging indictment of
colonialism takes on added power owing
to the elegance of his attack.
* * * * *
The White Masters
of the World
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * *
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Negro Digest / Black World
Browse all issues
* * *
Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /
George Jackson /
* * * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding
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